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With WrestleMania 40 announced to be taking place in Philadelphia, will Paul Heyman be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame... in the city that was once home to his iconic ECW?

By Ryan K Boman - April 3, 2023

Extreme. Hardcore. Over-the-Top.

Those are all adjectives used to describe Philadelphia-based ECW during its time on the wrestling map.

In a city where the American Revolution began in the 1770s, a professional wrestling revolution took place over 200 years later. During the 'alternative era' of the 90s, Extreme Championship Wrestling went from the underground to the mainstream. And in the process, it changed the industry forever. So much so that the style (and even some fo the stars) that it produced are still a vital part of modern-day programming. It didn't just cause a ripple effect; it was more like a tidal wave.

The man behind that movement, Paul Heyman, has been a well-traveled manager upon his arrival in Philadelphia, following managerial stints in promotions like WCW, the AWA, and the Memphis Territory. He was skilled on the microphone and had an incredible grasp of wrestling knowledge. A longtime student of the game and deft communicator, he often found work early in his career by doubling up as a color commentator on local TV broadcasts.

It was there, in a converted bingo hall, that Heyman discovered his true genius. He had always been a storyteller. But now, he could do it on a whole, new level. And in his own way.

Becoming not only the eventual owner of the promotion, Heyman was also its grappling guru - its spiritual leader. In a locker room full of unproven nobodies, Heyman was a star. He had appeared for years on national TV and worked with some of the sport's biggest stars. So to them? the balding little Jewish guy might as well have been the quarterback of the football team. That's why when he told them that he could lead them to the promised land, they followed him. No matter what it took, they followed the father of the family.

However, he was also known as somewhat of a charlatan amongst his peers. To be fair, Heyman was a bit of an urban carny, and he definitely would 'bend' the truth a bit if it meant getting things done. But just like every promoter before him, Heyman didn't quibble over such simple matters as dollars and cents. He'd worry about all of that tomorrow, or sometime next week.

The only thing that really mattered was: The Show Must Go On.

And it did. At least, until it couldn't anymore. Forced to shut down due to a lot of debt and no national television deal, Vince McMahon would eventually purchase the rights to all things ECW in 2001. It has now become a footnote in the WWE archives. Tucked away for safekeeping, and occasional viewing on Peacock.

The demise of ECW left Paul Heyman at a crossroads in his career

Throughout the next few years, Heyman was in and out at WWE, serving in both backstage and onscreen capacities. However, being an intelligent guy, he had already established numerous contacts in other genres of sports and entertainment. So at this point in his life, he could have easily pursued other interests. At a point when he was on the outs with WWE and in Stephanie McMahon's personal doghouse, it looked like we had seen the last of him in Stamford.

However, his career gained new life when his chemistry with Brock Lesnar a 20-year partnership that has been mutually beneficial to both. The former Paul E. Dangerously has held several different titles over the years as he stood by the side of The Beast Incarnate. Now, he serves in the same kind of capacity for the Undisputed Universal Champion, Roman Reigns.

While he has been known as an advisor, advocate, and wise man, Heyman is what is known traditionally in sports entertainment as a ringside 'second' - or manager. And based on say online, he's believed to be among the very best ever to assume that role, behind only Bobby Heenan and Jim Cornette. Although some fans and critics even say he's the best ever. Bar none.

In terms of his resume, it speaks for itself. In the past 20 years alone, he's been the single most dominant force at his position in the industry. Heyman is the man known for standing next to top stars and dominant champions, and he's often portrayed as the genius behind the giant.

In many ways, he is. As both a character and carnival barker, Heyman serves several roles for his proteges. Not the least of which is walking them through the promo process, effectively selling their every match and every move to the audience. It's a masterful craft when it's done properly. Heyman has honed it to perfection.

He's been a huge factor in the success of not only Reigns but the entire Bloodline faction, which has provided WWE's finest entertainment in years. It's still going strong, as well, following a big win for The Tribal Chief over Cody Rhodes in Hollywood. No doubt, Heyman will continue to shine in his role as the primary shit-disturber of the group. It's a role that fits him perfectly, right down to his squinty, little eyes and thin, sarcastic smile. He's the ultimate ass-kissing, yes-man, and the perfect sidebar for a superstar. He accentuates all of Reigns' positives, by being, even more, lower and dirtier than the champ himself is.

Their partnership works perfectly because Heyman knows that he's unlikable and embraces that role. His sneaky and smarmy ways have made him a timeless foil for the fans. Someone they can focus all their animosity towards. In turn, he throws as much fuel on their fire as he possibly can, using his camera time to the fullest.

His achievements are so vast, there's no question of if Paul Heyman is a WWE Hall of Famer or not. It's not even up for debate at this point, as he seemingly makes history every time he makes a move. And as those accomplishments continue to stack up, it may be closer and closer to a time when we finally have to give in and admit that he's likely the greatest manager ever.

While that argument could rage for eternity, one thing will come much sooner. The day when Heyman assumes his rightful place among all of WWE's immortals.

Most would say that should come at the end of his career, or when he's no longer an active, onscreen character. However, we have seen people continue to be a part of the show following their walk on the red carpet. Edge, Rey Mysterio, Lita, Trish Stratus, and other recognized legends were all actively involved in the action in Hollywood. Each of them already has a HOF ring on their finger, with Rey getting one on Friday night ahead of his match with his son, Dominik. So there's no rule (like in pro sports) that says you have to retire (and stay retired) in order to be honored.

At WrestleMania 39, it was announced that next year's event will be taking place in Heyman's old stomping grounds, Philadelphia. The home of ECW, where he transformed from a mere wrestling figure into a mythical one, long before he was a starring player in Show of Shows.

It would be fitting then, that the former leader of the outlaws finally receives the ultimate pardon in the place where he raised the most hell. Heyman represents a bridge in eras, a space in time that stretches from the cartoonish days of the 80s and early 90s, through several different trends and into the modern era. He's seen and done it all, and he's made few apologies along the way.

If any city represents the toughness and true grit of the squared circle, then it's Philly. And if any one person embodies both the sport and the city, then it's Paul Heyman. Next year is the perfect setting for a salute to his skills. Much like him and ECW, it's the right place at the right time. Albeit about 30 years later.

Paul Heyman can be described by all the same adjectives that ECW once was. He's extreme in some of his actions, hardcore in his love for the wrestling business, and often over-the-top with his persona. He's every single one of those descriptions. But more than all of those things? He's a Hall of Famer and a Philly legend. And those last two adjectives should be made permanent next year at WrestleMania 40.

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